From the author of The Emperor of All Maladies, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and The Gene, a #1 New York Times bestseller, comes his most spectacular book yet, about the fundamental unit of life. Rich with Mukherjee's revelatory and exhilarating stories of scientists, doctors, and the patients whose lives may be saved by their work, The Song of the Cell is the third book in this extraordinary writer's exploration of what it means to be human.
In the late 1600s, a distinguished English polymath, Robert Hooke, and an eccentric Dutch cloth-merchant, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek look down their hand-made microscopes. What they see introduces a radical concept that sweeps through biology and medicine, touching virtually every aspect of the two sciences, and altering both forever. It is the fact that complex living organisms are assemblages of tiny, self-contained, self-regulating units. Our organs, our physiology, our selves - hearts, blood, brains - are built from these compartments. Hooke christens them "cells".
The discovery of cells -and the reframing of the human body as a cellular ecosystem - announced the birth of a new kind of medicine based on the therapeutic manipulations of cells. A hip fracture, a cardiac arrest, Alzheimer's dementia, AIDS, pneumonia, lung cancer, kidney failure, arthritis, COVID pneumonia - all could be re-conceived as the results of cells, or systems of cells, functioning abnormally. And all could be perceived as loci of cellular therapies.
In The Song of the Cell, Mukherjee tells the story of how scientists discovered cells, began to understand them, and are now using that knowledge to create new humans. He seduces readers with writing so vivid, lucid and suspenseful that complex science becomes thrilling. Told in six parts, laced with Mukherjee's own experience as a researcher, a doctor, and a prolific reader, The Song of the Cell is both panoramic and intimate - a masterpiece.